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LAPD on Social Media: Selfies, Big Guns, and Live Coverage of Crime Scenes

LAPD Screen Shot 1

In 2011, I published a piece here on L.A. Taco calling out the LAPD and Homicide Detective Sal LaBarbera for using Twitter in I what I felt was an unprofessional style. The post set off a firestorm of criticism and praise of my stance, and started a conversation in the media about the proper use of social media by public employees. Since then, numerous law enforcement agencies and their officers have have adopted social media to stay better connected with communities and to give their perspective take on the news. You can literally look up the majority of departments on the big three social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As with anything else in today's hyperconnected world, sometimes there's such a thing as overly connected, and it leads to interesting results. Let's review some recent postings...

The Los Angeles Sheriffs Department created an “electronic communications unit" that seems to be primarily used to follow backyard parties and stop drug use and drinking among teens. By monitoring social media, the LASD has literally changed how these parties are now organized because social media has burnt them before they can get off the ground. For as much as I have passionate issues with the LAPD and LASD, I give them props for being ingenious at tracking and closing down these kind of parties that used to thrive on Social Media. Law Enforcement learned how to use these new communication tools effectively, and are adapting to the changing times.

The power of having instant contact through social media means that our interactions are no longer just limited to private and in person communication. Anyone can burn themselves or others through social media if they post something they shouldn't. One example I've noticed on the LAPD/LASD feeds are photos of arrests, where the arrestee has their face blasted on social media for everyone to see without their consent.

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Depending what you do for a living and where you are doing it, instagramming what you do at work might not be a good idea, or not allowed under any circumstance. It might get you fired if your boss or co-workers don't like what you post, or if it's sensitive information not meant for the public. Anyone who uses social media will eventually have a moment where they think twice about posting something-- even if it seems interesting or necessary. I've certainly been there. I've stumbled now and then, but so far nothing has been really damaging. It's not like I'm posting pictures of police crime scenes.

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You may say it seems like I'm picking on the LAPD, and you aren't far off. It's the job of ordinary people to watch the watchers and make sure public employees are upholding public standards. I make it clear on social media that I don't have the best relationship with the LAPD and LASD for various reasons, but I still have some respect for the people that put on those badges and put their lives on the line. I know not all cops are assholes, but sometimes it sure does seem like there are a lot of 'em.

I follow numerous police agencies on twitter for two reasons: to get information/updates on what's going on in the city, and to talk as much trash as I can get away with. One of my favorite targets that I direct my frustrations toward is the twitter account LAPD Air Support.

Why, you ask? Well if you have to ask then I know you don't live in the hood. Whenever anything goes down, LAPD Air Support is there acting as extra eyes for officers on the ground. Sometimes they'll spend a few hours buzzing around the neighborhood at all hours of the night. Everyone gets used to the ghetto bird, but knowing that they have a twitter account that I can follow and direct my outrage at the noise and disturbance to sure helps me deal with that shit. As such, LAPD Air Support has now blocked me on their social media channels. Of course it's not all frustration and darkness...

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For instance, social media has shown the lighter side of the LAPD. Get it? cause it's Star Wars Day and the force has a light and dark side and the officers have red light sabers, which only villains use and the guy arresting them has green, which heroes use. Eh, Eh, Eh...

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Then you have officers who for all their good intentions end up posting stuff like this. The caption read: "Different day, same activity, same results. Different street, different gang, same division. Money, dope, and guns! But we couldn't find the gun, this time. You don't want to know where we found his rocks!! Love working here! #crimedon'tpay #keeppushing #streetcops"

Obviously officer Estopin loves his job and he seems like a genuine guy, but I'm pretty sure he shouldn't be posting pics of drugs found on someone's person, specially if he's on duty. And if he is, I would think he would have the sense to make his account private, like many other officers do.

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Another thing that doesn't seem quite right are pictures of men being questioned by officers. As far as I know, these people are innocent until proven guilty, but there they are on social media where friends, family, and co-workers can spot them.

LADS Transit pic faces

If you are going to post photos of individuals being arrested, questioned or being given a ticket, at least make sure we can't see their faces in the picture. This is a screen shot of a picture LASD Transit Policing posted via twitter a while back. I called them out, along with some other folks, and they eventually edited the original tweet to include a picture of blurred faces. Too slow, LASD, too slow.

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Taking selfies while on duty is totally cool. Cops can be corny just like teenagers.

LAPD Selfie

Especially when you do it with your partner, cause we all saw "End of Watch."

LAPD Badge

And don't forget to take a picture and show everyone your badge number, just in case you forget it.

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But you know what's better than taking a pic of your badge? Taking a pic of your big ass gun.

LAPD Guns


Don't forget to include your buddies in the pic either. Gotta love the #hashtag game too.

LAPD occupy

And what better way to show off some of the equipment officers use than with an action shot?

However, officers aren't all business all the time. They can still hang and be cool.

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Like any social media pro, you gotta do Follow Friday and shout out your homies. And while some of  these pics might say otherwise, law agencies are being more proactive about their engagement through social media and cognizant of the impact it can have. From having social media workshops to posting guidelines on what their intentions are, they're slowly but surely creating a digital safe space to be able to interact with police agencies.

Anyway, it's not like they're  listening in to your phone calls or placing people in federal databases that labels them as a terrorist for simply taking a picture of a building. That's just being paranoid.

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